Los Angeles, USA

Unsheltered Moments L.A. – part 1

We’d like to introduce you to some of the people we’ve had to pleasure of meeting this winter when we were in Los Angeles with 530 Shelterbags from our social factory in Cape Town.

Photography and interviews: Tony Dočekal
Est. 3 minutes

We’d like to introduce you to some of the people we’ve had the pleasure of meeting this winter when we were in Los Angeles with 530 Shelterbags from our social factory in Cape Town.

At least 63,706 people are currently unhoused in Los Angeles County. The COVID-19 pandemic has only brought more challenges, with housing affordability and decreased capacity in shelters further contributing to encampments throughout the city.



Our distribution partner Project Ropa introduced us to Edward, who has been living on the streets of Los Angeles for about 1,5 years.

Edward has been using his Shelterbag for a couple of months now, sleeping in front of a church across from Echo Park. The place is guarded by security cameras, giving him a sense of security at night. He told us he loved the design because it allows him to be mobile, and only carry his skateboard.

Video by Spencer Elliott-Hair

“This makes a big difference compared to cardboard and a blanket. Everybody is surviving COVID. Some people are inside, some people are outside. But everybody is a person, you know. Just try to be nice, that’s all I do.”

– Edward


When we met Mercedes (aka Danger), she was sewing her tent because it was ripped. There was no mattress or blanket inside. When we visited a week earlier, her tent was not there yet. She just relocated to be close to the services offered by The ReFresh spot across the street (a community-driven project run by Homeless Healthcare that provides Skid Row residents access to restrooms, showers, laundry, and supportive services).

After doing her laundry and showering, she made sure to wear her good wig before I could take her portrait.

Her morning routine (meditation, prayer, and self-care) helps her stay positive. She thinks about her children when she prays, but she doesn’t know where they are now.

“Technically I’ve been sleeping outside for two years. Here, at Skid Row, for 90 days.”

– Mercedes

“I want to travel again. See everything. Taste everything. Meet everyone. And live off the land.”

– Mercedes


Cleveland (67) was the first in line to have his photo taken after he received a Shelterbag from Salvation Army on Skid Row.

We checked back in a week later to hear his thoughts. “If I could do a jingle for it, I would!” Cleveland is a musician, or in his own words: “more of a vocalist than anything else.”

He came to L.A. from New Orleans when he was young, chasing the music business. He has been on the streets since ‘77.

“Never seen anything like this before. It just blows my mind.”

– Cleveland

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About this project

For this ongoing project, we engage with unhoused communities in various cities. The intimate documentary reflects the unraveling of society and exposes the equal measures of strength and vulnerability of each of its characters.

By capturing these raw moments in a new light, we challenge the mainstream representation of a growing, forgotten group. It reminds us that people who experience homelessness should neither be labeled nor disregarded. Everyone has a story to tell.